4411868098_b2200714e0_b-1024x682.jpg

On campus, all speech matters

BY MARK T. HARRIS

February 09, 2018 01:30 PM

Updated February 09, 2018 01:30 PM

“Free speech is meant to protect unpopular speech. Popular speech, by definition, needs no protection.”
– Neal Boortz

My students are almost universal in their opinion that “hate speech” should be banned from our campus. They argue that hate speech is hurtful and potentially provocative and could serve to incite violence causing significant damage. The problem with hate speech is that it causes some of us to become uncomfortable.

One can argue that the very discomforting nature of unpopular rhetoric is what makes it so valuable. After all, if throughout history we only allowed perspectives to be shared by those with whom the majority agreed, we would have suppressed the voices of those in this country who advocated for the abolition of slavery; or women’s suffrage; or an integrated military; or rights of same-sex couples.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution explicitly states that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.” Short and sweet and to the point, the Founding Fathers wished to establish in the preeminent constitutional amendment that the rights of everyone to be heard would be sacrosanct.

After all, the protection of free speech was contained in the very first amendment, not the second, third or fourth.

Why does it bother us so much that everyone should have the right to be heard?

Just because someone has a right to share their viewpoint, nothing compels the rest of us to listen. The ultimate right to be insulated from ideas we are repulsed by or viewpoints we find unacceptable is for us to individually shut them out. It really is as simple as that.

No one compels us to access an objectionable website or open an objectionable attachment or view a “comment” that offends us. Each of us chooses to access both acceptable and objectionable viewpoints and the constitution is clear in that it protects speech without regard to its content.

With very few exceptions, government must allow a wide spectrum of speech and is limited to restricting only the “time, place and manner” for that speech.

On university campuses, it is even more essential that a wide range of views be allowed a voice. At its very essence, a college campus is an environment inhabited almost exclusively by adults who are present to be “educated,” which by definition includes the process of receiving “intellectual, moral and social” instruction.

As a university lecturer, I always begin my courses by informing students that I will not provide them with “the” truth but instead a range of perspectives from which they can glean “their” truth. George Washington was both a “Founding Father” of our nation and an owner of hundreds of slaves. Do those two historical facts render him a “patriot” or “fiend?”

Maybe he was both and maybe he was neither, but a university campus should be an environment that has a full and uninhibited exploration of perspectives presented to the entire campus community.

Some argue that the violence accompanying the expression of certain unpopular views or the high cost associated with ensuring safety and order during the time those views are being expressed, is the justification for exercising the prior restraint of unpopular speech.

To those people, I suggest that the Constitution is clear in its mandate that all speech is protected, including so-called “hate” speech.

University campuses should continue to welcome the expression of all views, specially those that make us most uncomfortable. By being exposed to views different from our own, we may actually learn that “All Speech Matters” in a way that expands our thinking and improves each of us.

Mark T. Harris is director of pre-law studies, University of California, Merced. He just completed service on the California Fair Employment and Housing Council as an appointee of California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr.


Trump: Stop trash talking the judicial branch

BY MARK T. HARRIS

February 14, 2017

Since its inception, the United States of America has stood firmly committed to the principle of an independent and empowered judiciary first espoused by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall in the 1803 case of Marbury vs. Madison.

In Marbury, the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation and application of a rather obscure federal congressional act, applied to the attempt by William Marbury who sought a federal appointment during the “lame duck” period between the presidency of John Adams and that of Thomas Jefferson.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out who would win this federal skirmish between former presidents because after all, last time I checked, only one of those two men had been designated a place on U.S. currency, a place on Mount Rushmore and had a monument erected in his honor in our nation’s capital. Hint: it wasn’t John Adams.

In Marbury vs. Madison, William Marbury sought to have the federal court compel his appointment to ironically a justice of the peace position he had been appointed to by President John Adams, at the end of his presidency and before newly-elected President Thomas Jefferson was to take office.

Adams and Jefferson were members of two opposite political parties and were bitter foes. The administrative order appointing Marbury had been signed by then-Secretary of State John Marshall, but never properly delivered allowing it to take effect.

Coincidentally (or diabolically) Marshall became the fourth Chief Justice of the United States under President Jefferson and as a first order of business ruled against the appointment sought by William Marbury.

In order to even consider whether Marbury had a legal right to his appointment, Chief Justice Marshall wrote an often quoted legal opinion for the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court stating that as a matter of constitutional principle: “It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is...If two laws conflict with each other, the courts must decide on the operation of each...This is of the very essence of judicial duty.”

There is no more compelling statement standing as the bedrock foundation upon which our nation’s independent judicial authority has been built.

President Trump, by his actions and his rhetoric, seeks to sweep away the uniquely essential role of the federal judiciary with his immigration ban executive order and over-the-top criticism of our federal judiciary.

Even before he became the nominee of the Republican party, President Trump dismissed United States federal judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was presiding over one of the two class-action lawsuits then pending against Trump University. President Trump referred to Curiel as a “Mexican” even though Curiel, having been born in Indiana, is as American as President Trump.

More troubling was the 12 minutes then-candidate Trump spent railing against Curiel, during a campaign rally, referring to him as a “hater” and for implying that the much vaunted border “wall” he proposed would keep those such as Curiel outside of the United States.

Most recently, U.S. federal Judge James Robart issued an order putting at least a temporary halt to Trump’s highly criticized “travel ban.” Trump referring to Robart, an appointee of former President George Bush, as a “so-called judge” and through a torrent of “tweets” stated the following: "The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned.”

"Because the ban was lifted by a judge, many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country. A terrible decision.”

“What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?”

It is dangerous for one of the three linchpin pillars of American democracy to openly and viciously challenge the authority of another in this manner. President Trump is not a private citizen. He sits at the top of the Executive Branch of the United States government and his challenge to the federal courts is shockingly disrespectful of U.S. constitutional history and precedent.

It is also uncivilized and behavior below the dignity of the behavior we expect of the president.

In this modern day and time, civility has become perceived as unnecessary. The byproduct of communication via device has begotten an alarming amount of interpersonal bullying and overall cultural insensitivity.

However, President Trump takes being uncivilized and boorish to the dangerous level of promoting a troubling distrust of, and potential disobedience to the authority of our federal judiciary and ultimately to our entire system of a government.

No fewer than two well-respected national newspapers raised the question this week of what might happen if President Trump chooses to disregard one or several judicial orders. This whole matter is quickly approaching Nixonian levels of potential inter-branch conflict not seen in America since the Watergate era.

I advise President Trump to borrow a copy of his colleague Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address to be reminded that the American government, and each of its three branches, in order to be effective, must be “of the people, for the people and by the people.”

President Trump should end his vitriolic attack on judges and the courts immediately.

Mark T. Harris is a continuing lecturer at the University of California, Merced. He has served a a federal judicial law clerk to the former Chief Judge of the U.S. Federal District Court in the Central District of California and has practiced and taught law for over 35 years.


Election 2016: It is time to to 'inspect what we expect' in a president

  Florence Lucey-Renteria, 19, a University of California, Merced, sophomore and President of Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math or WSTEM, gathers with fellow UC students to protest the policies of President-elect Donald Trump outside the Kolligian Library on campus in Merced on Nov. 9.   Andrew Kuhn     akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

Florence Lucey-Renteria, 19, a University of California, Merced, sophomore and President of Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math or WSTEM, gathers with fellow UC students to protest the policies of President-elect Donald Trump outside the Kolligian Library on campus in Merced on Nov. 9. Andrew Kuhn akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

BY: MARK T. HARRIS

November 19, 2016 

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

Mark T. Harris / Special to The Bee

GALATIANS 6:9

  Mark T. Harris   / Special to The Bee

Mark T. Harris / Special to The Bee

America experienced a national election last week. Our nation has had national elections every four years since our inaugural presidential election held from December 1788 through January 1789.

The British native and prolific slave owner Gen. George Washington was elected to serve as president by those “Americans,” who at that time were largely disenfranchised “foreigners” from Britain and elsewhere, so long as they were not Native American or born of African descent.

The election of Donald J. Trump is one of America’s low-water marks in history by any scholarly measure. Trump has been accused of deplorable treatment of women; he has failed to offer his tax returns for examination by the American people; he has been married three times and admitted to committing adultery during the time he was married.

He considers himself a Christian but fails to attend church services on a regular basis; he did not serve in the military and he slandered an entire culture by accusing those immigrating from Mexico of being “rapists” who bring “drugs and crime” to America.

Trump has shattered the aspirational myth of the American president being among the best our nation has to offer in character: integrity, intellect, courage and experience. Simply said, by any previous standard, Trump is indeed “unfit to serve” as president of the United States.

Be that as it may, on Jan. 20, 2017, Trump will be sworn in as our nation’s 45th president. The election is over. Trump will be awarded some 290 Electoral College votes, despite receiving what could be almost 2 percent fewer actual popular votes than his opponent.

Get over it, America, and get used to referring to “The Donald” as “Mr. President.” The myriad post-election public disturbances our nation is experiencing throughout some American large cities will not change the fact that Trump will be sworn in as our nation’s commander in chief.

Therefore, it is time to explore how we have arrived at this moment in America’s (de)evolution and what a Trump presidency may say about each of us.

Let’s first examine a few of the preliminary numbers from this recently completed election. Trump received the following support:

▪ 58 percent of the white vote.

▪ 53 percent of the male vote.

▪ 42 percent of the female vote.

▪ 58 percent of the Protestant vote.

▪ 52 percent of the Catholic vote.

▪ 81 percent of the Christian Evangelical vote.

▪ 61 percent of those voters in active military service.

▪ 29 percent of the Latino vote.

▪ 8 percent of the African American vote.

A couple of observations: Women, non-Mexican-immigrant Latinos and the faith-based communities voted in large numbers for Trump. Additionally, what the early numbers indicate is that a large number of traditional Democratic voters stayed home, or voted but failed to cast a vote for president in protest over the selection of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee.

The “Bernie or Bust” approach of many ethnic and millennial voters was clearly present. However, of those who did come to the polls and cast their votes for president, many Democrats in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida simply chose to vote for Trump in larger numbers than had been anticipated by the talking-head media and polling “experts” who misread pre-election voter sentiment.

Where does America go from here? I suggest that each of us, regardless of whom we favored in the 2016 election, follow the advice of a dear friend of mine calling for us to “inspect what we expect.” I suggest we lift our gaze to a place of highest expectations from the place of low expectations among those currently demonstrating against the Trump victory.

I suggest we look to hold Trump accountable for his policies and his actions, but that we do not rush to prejudge the type of president he will be. Many who have served as president before Trump have found themselves transformed by the enormity of the issues that reside in the decision-making inbox culminating in the Oval Office.

As President Harry Truman was fond of saying about the presidency, “The buck stops here.” It is my hope that Trump will exceed our nation’s expectations and seek to follow the model of Lyndon Johnson relative to civil rights or Richard Nixon relative to China or Ronald Reagan relative to the former Soviet Union.

Being president is a much bigger job than running for president. I hope and pray, for our nation’s sake, that Trump is up to the task. If that is what happens, our nation’s expectations for a Trump presidency will be largely exceeded by its reality.

Mark T. Harris of Merced served as the deputy chief of staff at the U.S. Commerce Department under President Bill Clinton and as undersecretary at the California Business, Transportation And Housing Agency under former Gov. Gray Davis. Harris teaches management and business economics at UC Merced.


Anita Hill, speaking truth to power

BY: MARK T. HARRIS

October 20, 2016

  Anita Hill was cast under the microscope during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.   The Associated Press

Anita Hill was cast under the microscope during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The Associated Press

The year was 1991. George Herbert Walker Bush was the president of the United States. Joe Biden served as chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. And Anita Hill was a young Yale Law School graduate and law professor at the University of Oklahoma.

Bush had seen fit to appoint Clarence Thomas, a former Yale Law School graduate and chairman of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, to the Supreme Court as an associate justice of that august body.

The U.S. Senate had the constitutional obligation to perform its “advise and consent” role in reviewing the Thomas appointment, within its authority under Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution. Coincidentally, this is the same provision used by the Senate today to hold up President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia.

The Thomas appointment was, to say the least, highly contentious.

That’s when young Anita Hill entered the state. She had been sought out by the Senate Judiciary Committee to speak to Thomas’ character and “fitness to serve” as a Supreme Court jurist.

Hill was a reluctant witness under the unrelenting national media glare, more than content to stay out of the national spotlight.

But without regard to her professional and personal well-being, Hill spoke truth to power. She accused Thomas of multiple episodes of sexual harassment and conduct unworthy of one seeking to be appointed to the nation’s highest court.

Hill will visit Merced on Monday to be presented with UC Merced’s prestigious Alice and Clifford Spendlove Prize in Social Justice, Diplomacy and Tolerance. Her visit culminates in a 6 p.m. ceremony, open to the public, in the Art Kamanger Center at the Merced Theatre.

During a time when a candidate for president shrugs off his earlier boastful comments of committing sexual battery as mere “locker-room banter,” people should see for themselves what real courage looks like in the person of professor Hill.

Ultimately, the Judiciary Committee and the full Senate chose to confirm Thomas, despite the damning testimony of Hill and other women. This historical event is captured in the docudrama “Confirmation,” starring Kerry Washington, the star of the series “Scandal.”

Hill’s decision to speak out against despicable treatment at the hands of someone as powerful as Thomas – her former boss and mentor – has empowered a new generation of women to speak out when they experience sexual harassment in the workplace or on university campuses.

The fastest growth in reported sexual misconduct cases is coming from college campuses. The recent assault of an unconscious woman at Stanford University resulted in a sentence of only six months, of which only three months were served. Such a light sentence might make a new generation of young women reluctant to come forward after suffering inappropriate treatment at the hands of faculty members or fellow students.

In September, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 2888 that strengthened penalties against anyone convicted of rape or sexual assault of an unconscious victim.

Hill’s example of courage provides a model for young people, a model that the Stanford victim followed by reading a victim’s statement in court at the time of sentencing.

Sexual harassment is not only a “women’s” problem. Injustice toward one is an injustice toward all.

During these unprecedented political times, Hill remains a champion and role model for those encouraging others, particularly young people, to speak truth to power.

Mark T. Harris is a continuing lecturer and director of Pre-Law Studies at University of California, Merced. He wrote this for the Merced Sun-Star.


LAW ENFORCEMENT ACCOUNTABILITY DIRECTIVE (“L.E.A.D.”)

October 14, 2016

Dear Editors:

HEADLINE: Sacramento Council Meeting On Police Reform Stopped By Protestors

Shame on Sacramento City Council

I am an attorney and co-chair of the Sacramento Law Enforcement Accountability Directive. I attended this past evening's city council "circus" and was ashamed by the lack of fairness exhibited by Mayor Pro Tem Larry Carr and his council colleagues during the meeting.

The U.S. Constitution guarantees us the right to freely express our opinion over matters such as the city's abysmal record relative to police practices particularly in regard to transparency and accountability. Members of our community are fed up with excuses and delay tactics by the Mayor and his city council colleagues relative to holding local law enforcement accountable for their treatment of ALL Sacramentans.

Last night's "protest" took the form of finger snapping; clapping and the silent raising of arms in the air. Since when in America did those simple acts put one in the position of the threat of incarceration? Sacramento, we deserve better leadership than we received from the council, and an absent Mayor Johnson, this past evening.

Mark Harris

Mark T. Harris, Esq.
Co-Chair

1215 “K” Street Seventeenth Floor Sacramento, CA 95814
(866) 600-3742


Tonight at Sacramento City Hall was a shameful display pre-apartheid era suppression of free speech.

October 13, 2016

STAND UP SACRAMENTO

MY NAME IS MARK T. HARRIS, AND I AM AN ATTORNEY; THE CO-CHAIR OF SACRAMENTO’S LAW ENFORCEMENT ACCOUNTABILITY DIRECTIVE, OR “L.E.A.D.” AND THE HOST OF “FAMILY MATTERS FORUM” ON SACRAMENTO’S KDEE 97.5 FM.

SACRAMENTO,…WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS. WILL THE REAL SACRAMENTO STAND UP AND BE HEARD FROM?

ON SUNDAY MORNING, JULY 10, 2016, AFTER 41 STRAIGHT HOURS OF BROADCASTING ON KDEE 97.5 FM, AT 7:04 AM I RECEIVED A CALL TO ACTION FROM MY BROTHER AND FELLOW SOLDIER …. RICHARD OWEN. RICHARD IMPLORED ME TO TRANSFORM THE LOVE I FELT FOR MY COMMUNITY INTO “ACTION” BECAUSE AS HE PUT IT, “LOVE IS A VERB!”

IT WAS AT THAT MOMENT, THAT THE LAW ENFORCEMENT ACCOUNTABILITY DIRECTIVE OR “L.E.A.D.” WAS FORMED. EVENTS CREATE OPPORTUNITIES FOR LEADERSHIP TO RISE.

AS I STAND BEFORE YOU TODAY. I STAND ON THE SHOULDERS OF MANY INCLUDING:

THE LATE HONORABLE JOE AND ISABEL SERNA, OUR CITY’S BELOVED FORMER FIRST COUPLE;

THE LATE HONORABLE SAM PANELL;

THE LATE IDA SYDNOR;

THE LATE HONORABLE BOB MATSUI;

AND LAST BUT SURELY NOT LEAST, THE FINEST ATTORNEY AND ADVOCATE FOR THE PEOPLE IN SACRAMENTO HISTORY, THE LATE NATHANIEL SEXTUS COLLEY.

THE UNCONSCIONABLE EVENTS AFFECTING THE MANN AND FLENAUGH FAMILIES, AT THE HANDS OF THE SACRAMENTO POLICE DEPARTMENT, MOVED ME AS I REFLECTED ON THE QUESTION, WHAT STEPS WOULD EACH OF THIS CITY’S FORMER LEADERS IMPLORE ME TO TAKE ON BEHALF OF OUR COMMUNITY?

THE ANSWER WAS CLEAR.

EACH OF THESE GREAT SACRAMENTANS IN ONE VOICE TOLD ME THAT IT WAS TIME TO STAND UP,…STAND UP SACRAMENTO!!!!

WE CANNOT TOLERATE A POLICE DEPARTMENT THAT, IN THE WORDS OF OUR MAYOR-ELECT, REFLECTS THE “TAIL WAGGING THE DOG.”

IT IS TIME TO HAVE TRUE TRANSPARENCY IN LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT WHICH MAY THEN LEAD TO TRUE ACCOUNTABILITY ON BEHALF OF THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY OUR POLICE DEPARTMENT HAS SWORN TO PROTECT AND TO SERVE!

IT IS TIME TO HAVE A POLICE DEPARTMENT THAT REFLECTS ITS ACKNOWLEDGEMENT THAT THE POLICE OFFICERS BILL OF RIGHTS IS TRUMPED BY THE U.S. CONSTITUTION AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, THE HOLY BIBLE. OUR POLICE DEPARTMENT MUST RECOGNIZE THAT OUR NATION’S FLAG, IS NOT JUST BLUE, IT IS RED, WHITE AND BLUE.

AS I TAKE MY SEAT, I AM WEARY. AS THE OLD FOLKS USED TO SAY, I AM TIRED OF JUST BEING TIRED. BUT AS I GAZE OUT UPON THIS AUDIENCE, I AM INSPIRED BY A NEW DAWN OF LEADER IN SACRAMENTO INCLUDING THE LIKES OF:

SISTER TANYA FAISON, SACRAMENTO’S OWN ANGELA DAVIS;

BROTHER “REV KEV”—-PASTOR KEVIN ROSS, WHO CHANNELS DR. KING WHENEVER HE SPEAKS;

SISTER DANIELLE WILLIAMS; SACRAMENTO’S OWN NEW AGE SOJOURNER TRUTH;

“KING” BERRY ACCIUS, OUR EL HAJ MALIK AL SHABAZZ;

BROTHER ERIC HARRIS, A LEADER IN SACRAMENTO’S “DIFFERENTLY-ABLED” COMMUNITY, WHO IS OUR FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT;

AND LAST BUT SURELY NOT LEAST,

PASTOR LES SIMMONS, AKA “SACRAMENTO’S MOSES,” WHO SAT AT THE HAND OF PHAROH AND RENOUNCED HIS PRIVILEGED PERCH IN ORDER TO RETURN TO HIS TRIBE TO LEAD US ON OUR OWN JOURNEY TO THE “PROMISED LAND OF JUSTICE.”

MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND KEEEP YOU ALL.

GOD BLESS SACRAMENTO, AND MAY ALL OF SACRAMENTO……….. STAND UP!!!!!

P.S. Tonight "our" elected representatives showed who they really are in the face of the growing frustration, anger and impatience experienced by our community. Sacramento deserves better....


Black Lives Matter (Equally) should be our motto

By Mark T. Harris

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

From the moment the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, the idea that “all men are created equal” was a lie. It took nearly 100 years for the lie to become visible to those who cared to look – and today, 240 years after the document was signed, the lie persists.  

Suffice it to say, I am not what people envision when the words “Black Lives Matter” are bandied about. I am a proud son of South Central Los Angeles, a graduate of Los Angeles High School and an alumnus of both Loyola Marymount University and the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law. Today, I live in a comfortable and safe, gated, lakeside community and drive a convertible foreign automobile. I was an investment banker on Wall Street and worked for former Gov. Gray Davis and for the Honorable William Jefferson Clinton in Washington, D.C. All that said, I am unapologetically black, and as such I completely embrace the thinking behind the Black Lives Matter movement. I think those who oppose the movement might have an easier time accepting the concept if they merely added one simple parenthetical that should not be necessary: (Equally).

It was in 1857 that a former slave named Dred Scott, plaintiff in Scott v. Sanford, would have the temerity to put forward the simple premise that a slave entering a “free state” was no longer a slave. To that rather common-sense proposition, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney opined that neither Scott nor any other person of African descent – regardless of slave status – could be counted as a “citizen of a state.” The court, in effect, validated the so-called Missouri Compromise, keeping in place the castigation of those of African descent to the status of three-fifths of a human being, or mere chattel.

According to Taney, the U.S. Constitution itself recognized the inferior status of blacks by the adoption of the so-called “three-fifths clause” (Article I, Section 2), which declared that for purpose of determining congressional representation, enslaved blacks would be counted as three-fifths of a person in population counts. This barbaric treatment of African Americans was established during the original Constitutional Convention in 1787 and remained in place, by law, until the passage of the Civil War Amendments – the 13th, banning slavery, and the 14th, which purported to grant full citizenship and “equal protection under the laws” to all who were born on American soil, regardless of ethnicity.

America has never apologized for the genocide of slavery and the legacy of the Dred Scott decision. We have been taught since early elementary school to believe this nation’s so-called Founding Fathers were statesmen and heroes, rather than the prolific slave owners some of them were. If African Americans speak of America’s discriminatory past, they are met with derision and treated as unpatriotic. Mere mention of the fact that Crispus Attucks and many other African descendants were the first to shed blood during the Revolutionary War is treated with dismissal as though it were fantasy, as opposed to fact.

My father, U.S. Navy Cmdr. Stanford E. Harris, served with distinction in World War II. My father-in- law, Air Force Master Sgt. Lawrence Martin Valmore, was a non-commissioned officer in the Vietnam and Korean Wars. To this day, I fly the red, white and blue in front of my home.

It should go without saying that the Black Lives Matter movement is simply calling for what this nation’s Declaration of Independence omitted for our race and what the 14th Amendment says we are in fact entitled to – no more or no less than any other American citizen. If our country does not recognize the disparity between how African Americans and white Americans are treated when interacting with law enforcement, I fear more bloodshed will be in the offing. And let me be clear: To predict is not to condone. It is my heartfelt hope that this nation will wake up in time to recognize as a matter of law and humanity that Black Lives Matter (Equally).


Nexit: EU dominoes will continue to fall

By Professor Mark T. Harris

  A demonstrator wrapped in the EU flag takes part in a protest opposing Britain’s exit from the European Union in Parliament Square in London following the EU referendum result.   TIM IRELAND     The Associated Press    

A demonstrator wrapped in the EU flag takes part in a protest opposing Britain’s exit from the European Union in Parliament Square in London following the EU referendum result. TIM IRELAND The Associated Press

 

Humpty Dumpty has fallen, and none of Europe’s horses or men can put him back together now. Many believe the much-reported exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, its so-called “Brexit,” is merely the first of a 28-nation set of dominoes to fall. It seems a sure bet that the United Kingdom will not be alone in leaving the EU within the next five years.

First, let’s examine the European Union, officially formed on Nov. 1, 1993, and comprised of 28 countries – which will become 27 with Great Britain’s exit. The precursors to the European Union extend back to the late 1940s and early 1950s, and its formation was framed as part of an effort to stave off potential catastrophic global – read, European – wars in the future after the devastation World Wars I and II brought to Europe’s shores. The theory giving rise to the formation of the EU was that it was imperative to have European economies linked so that no member country would gain from its actual or its economic destruction.

By way of background, I served as a U.S. Commerce Department official in Washington, D.C., during the administration of the Honorable William Jefferson Clinton and as California’s Undersecretary of Business, Transportation and Housing. Further, I was a managing director in two separate Wall Street firms. The people of Europe are acting more and more like those who support both the Occupy and Tea Party movements in the United States.

Regular rank-and-file folks are fed up with trusting their fate to the smarty pants of London and Washington and have, through their vote on Brexit, spoken with a loud voice in opposition to the continued empowering of their political leaders to set their collective fate. At this moment, Britain is in turmoil. They have been shown the door by their EU colleagues and told to withdraw “with all deliberate speed.” Further, the British currency market is in shambles.

It has come to light that this year’s men’s and women’s Wimbledon champions, each of whom is paid 1 million pounds in prize money, already have realized a reduction in value of their prize by one-third with the sliding value of British pound sterling. The only thing British leaders could do to make matters worse for themselves would be to blatantly disregard the will of their own citizens and disregard the recently completed Brexit referendum. Some have pointed out that as a matter of law, the recent referendum was not binding, meaning that Parliament could technically disregard the will of the people expressed by their vote to leave the EU. To do so would be a catastrophic mistake that might win the immediate economic “battle” Britain’s currency is experiencing but lose the overall war relative to maintaining its integrity in the eyes of the British people – and the world. To have any sense of how this may play out, one must be clear on what really has transpired by examining the geopolitical and economic conditions giving rise to it.

The original advocates for the formation of the European Union failed to realize the level of political and economic disruption in places such as Ukraine and Syria by having their refugees literally wash up on the shores of adjacent EU countries. Countless waves of unanticipated immigrants have disrupted local economies and caused significant strain to social infrastructure. The distance between the “haves” and the “have-nots” on a geographic basis is very close. Remember, the only country standing between Syria and the main countries of Europe is Turkey.

Each EU member country has attempted to retain political control while ceding other essential controls to the governing body of the EU. This tactical structural mistake by the original architects of the EU allows for xenophobic blowhard politicians in each of their home countries to cast votes inconsistent with the best interests of the EU on the whole.

The result of the creation of this geopolitical mutant known as the European Union has led to short- and long-term economic catastrophe for some EU member nations. Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain have been near financial and economic collapse at various times recently in some measure attributable to their membership in the EU. Even a nation’s attempt to exit the EU, as we’ve now seen, is fraught with sudden and substantial currency destabilization and financial market disruption.

We are witnessing the implosion of the EU in real time. While experts are unsure of which member nation may next pull out of the EU, most agree there will be more “exits”; as the dominoes continue to fall.


BREXIT: THE FIRST DOMINO

By Professor Mark T. Harris

The much reported exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, it's so-called "Brexit," is merely the first disruption to the 28 member nation set of European Union "dominoes." Many wonder whether Italy; France; or Belgium; or Greece will be the next EU domino to fall. Unlike all those who prognosticate about the likely outcome of potential efforts by member nations to extricate themselves from the European Union, I say simply "we shall see." One sure bet is that the United Kingdom will not be alone in leaving the EU within the next five years.

First, let’s examine the European Union officially formed on November 1, 1993 and comprised of 28 countries, which will become 27 with Great Britain’s exit. The precursors to the European Union extend back to the late 1940’s and early 1950’s and was framed as part of an effort to stave off potential catastrophic globe ( read European) wars in the future after the devastation World Wars I and II brought to Europe’s shores.  The theory giving rise to the formation of the EU was that it was imperative to have European economies linked so that no member country would gain from its actual or its economic destruction.

By way of background, I served as a U.S. Commerce Department official in Washington, D.C. in the administration of the Honorable William Jefferson Clinton and as California's Undersecretary of Business, Transportation and Housing. Further, I was a managing director in two separate Wall Street firms.

My many stints in government coupled with my political and finance experience has taught me that no one is a less skilled predictor than the "smartest person in the room." Many associated with supporting the continuation of the EU as an essentiality, have behaved as though they are the smartest one’s in the room.  The people of Europe are acting more and more like those who support both the “Occupy” and Tea Partymovements in the United States.  Regular rank and file folk are fed up with trusting their fate to the smarty pants’ of London and Washington, D.C. and have through their vote relative toBrexit, have spoken with a loud voice in opposition to the continued empowering of their political leaders to set their collective fate.

At this moment, Britain is in turmoil.  They have been shown the door by their EU colleagues and told to withdraw “with all deliberate speed.” Further, the British currency market is in shambles.  It has come to light that with the start of this year’s Wimbledon tennis tournament, the mens’ and womens’ champions, each of whom is paid one million pounds in prize money, has already realized a reduction in value of their prize by one third with the sliding value of British pound sterling!

The only thing British leaders could do to make matters worse for themselves, would be to blatantly disregard the will of their own citizens and disregard the recently completed Brexit referendum. Some have pointed out that as a matter of law, the recent referendum was not “binding” meaning technically Parliament could disregard the will of the people expressed by their vote to leave the EU.  I believe to do such would be a catastrophic mistake that might win the immediate economic “battle” Britain’s currency is experiencing but lose the overall war relative to maintaining its integrity in the eyes of the British people,…and the world.

In order to have any sense of how this may wind up one must be clear on what has really transpired by examining the geo; political and economic conditions giving rise to it.

With regard to the "geo," the original advocates for the formation of the European Union failed to realize that the level of political and economic disruption in places such as Ukraine and Syria would cause by having their refugees literally wash up on the shores of adjacent European Union member countries. Countless waves of unanticipated immigrants to EU member nations have disrupted their local economiesand caused significant strain to social infrastructure. The distance between the “haves” and the “have nots,” on a geographic basis is very close.  Remember the only country standing between Syria and the main countries of Europe is Turkey.

With regard to the "political," each EU member country has attempted to retain political control while ceding other essential controls to the governing body for the EU. This tactical structural mistake by the original architects of the EU, allows for xenophobic blowhard politicians in each of their home countries to cast votes inconsistent with the best interests of the EU on the whole.

The result of the creation of this geo-political mutant known as the European Union, has led to short and long term economic catastrophe for some EU member nations. Greece; Italy; Portugal and Spain have been near financial and economic collapse at various times recently in some measure attributable to their membership in the EU. Even a nation's attempt to exit the EU (e.g., "Brexit") is fraught with sudden and substantial currency destabilization and financial market disruption.

We are witnessing the implosion of the EU in real time. While experts are unsure of which member nation may next pull out of the EU, none believes there won't be many more "exits" as the dominos continue to fall. 


PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

By Professor Mark T. Harris

“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”

― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

I remember it as though it were yesterday.  Los Angeles was on fire.  No, I do not mean figuratively, I mean literally!

It was August of 1965 and I was a somewhat precocious eight year old. I was in the midst of my favorite time of year, with school out and my beloved Dodgers were on their way to another pennant.  Back in those days, the “pennant” really meant something because only two teams total; one from the American League and one from the National League, had the opportunity to play in the quickly approaching “Fall Classic” otherwise known as the World Series. During August of 1965, Maury Wills was on his way to establishing a new stolen base record of 94 and the combination of Dodger ace pitchers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale had mowed down the entire National League including our dreaded rivals the San Francisco Giants.

I lived “on the westside” of the African-American community of Los Angeles in what has now morphed into deeply South Central Los Angeles.  I lived between Crenshaw on the East and West Boulevard on the west with Washington Boulevard to the north and Adams Boulevard to our south.  No, it was not deepest, darkest South Central (take that reference as you will) but it was as segregated a community as any you would find in St. Louis, Missouri or rural Mississippi from where my parents each immigrated from. My neighborhood growing up was a set of striking contradictions. 

The Beach Boys and the Monkees and other Caucasian bands sang of moonlit Los Angeles evenings with beachside bonfires and endless days of “hanging ten” (toes that is) over the edges of one’s surfboard.  None of us in the hood experienced that Los Angles.  Instead, we experienced school segregation that was so pervasive, a court had to order it to cease and for Black children to be bussed across the vast reaches of the Los Angeles basin in order to even have the hope of a quality education.  My evenings in Los Angeles were much more likely to have the serenade of police sirens competing with the thumpity-thumpity-thump of the rotors of what we jokingly referred to as the “ghetto bird” aka a police or sheriff’s helicopter.

Well the summer of 1965 was a particularly tense one in Black Los Angeles.  Many of the same dynamics which have led us to proclaim that “Black Lives Matter” were present in 1965 Los Angeles. During 1965, Black people in general, but more specifically Black men in Los Angeles and throughout the country were fed up with being fed up.  By 1965, Black America had been promised over and over that we would receive our “forty acres and a mule,” if we would just remain patient and trust that it would be so.  We were promised this as prejudice and discrimination showed itself over and over in education housing employment and every aspect of our daily lives.

On the evening of August 11, 1965 it all boiled over when during a “routine traffic stop” of a 21 year-old Black man by the name of Marquette Frye, all Hell broke loose! Several days later, Los Angeles still smoldered as over 1,000 people rioted destroying the commercial core of one of the most densely populated sections of the Black community in the “Watts” section of Los Angeles.  34 persons lost their lives in the violence. Deep black smoke billowed for days all over the city and the National Guard was deployed to restore order when then mayor Sam Forty and former police chief William Parker claimed the LAPD were too overwhelmed to restore order without additional “military” assistance.  Coincidentally, the current governor’s father, Edmund G. (“Pat”) Brown, Sr. was governor of California at the time.

I remember being confused when I looked up at familiar landmarks in my community and saw them literally occupied by “troops.” There was a Marshall Law type curfew in effect which blanketed the city at the time and Blacks were warned that if they were out in defiance of the curfew they would be shot and killed without question. I remember seeing troop transport vehicles and vehicles with guns affixed to them like I saw watching popular television shows of the era, but this was taking place in my neighborhood rather than on a Hollywood soundstage.

During the sixties and seventies, I was raised in a home with two college educated parents and my father was a World War II era naval officer.  I was expected to respect and submit to authority and to be proud of my country.  However, as I entered my teenage years,  I was much more inclined to be swayed by the fiery rhetoric of Angela Davis and Stokely Carmichael than I was Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr. or other more passive civil rights leaders. 

The events leading up to and beyond the 1965 Watts Riots left this then eight year old boy completely confused and angry.  There were no Caucasians in my entire neighborhood —-period—-except for teachers and cops and they made sure to depart before sunset.  I could not celebrate heroism and embrace the role modeling of the comic book super heroes because they were in my mind representative of the oppressor.  Even on my beloved Dodgers, I embraced a segregated hero worship of the Black Dodgers e.g., Maury Wills; Sweet Lou Johnson and the Davis boys Tommy and Willie. i never could identify with Koufax and Drysdale and Osteen as an aspirational goal of the type of MAN I wished to become because after all, they were white men and I would NEVER become that.

It was at this time a beautiful “Black Butterfly” emerged (who in his own words stung his opponents like a bee) that was the immortal “Louisville Lip,” aka Cassius Marcellus Clay; aka Muhammad Ali.  Ali was regularly speaking his mind on issues outside of the traditional realm of sports and This could not have come at a better time in my life. Central casting in Hollywood could not have made Muhammad Ali up.  Just the year before, in 1964, Cassius Clay had dethroned the seemingly unstoppable Sonny Liston to become the heavyweight champion of the world. By the time of the Watts Riots, “Clay” had converted to Islam and joined the Nation of Islam which called for him to change his name to Muhammad Ali. While many in America were reviled by young Ali’s conversion, many of us in the Black community were elated that Ali had joined an organization we believed represented an empowered Black race.  I was during the sixties and seventies and remain today a strong supporter of the Nation of Islam and many of its edicts and principles.

I sprang from a teenage era of mischief and pseudo-revolution to embrace the example of brother Muhammad Ali.  He dressed sharp, he talked a mile a minute and he had “swag” before there was swag.  And yes, he was even “pretty” and oh so charasmatic. However, to me, he was most impressive when he confounded scholars and talk show hosts and members of the media as they attempted to challenge his devotion to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam.  Even when Ali departed the Nation for transition to a more traditional form of Islam, he did not “bad mouth” the teachings of his former faith.  I guess we can add loyal to the terms courageous and selfless when describing Ali’s character.

I had the honor of meeting Muhammad Ali in person who at the time, had been silenced by the ravages of Parkinson’s disease.  Despite his disease, Ali was expressive with his eyes and was able to communicateeffectively with me and others in the room on an almost telepathic basis

I am saddened as I look to today’s athletes for their comparative lack of courage and conviction when compared to Muhammad Ali. Today’s athletes strike a careful poseconstructed by media types and handlers few, if any of whom are Black themselves. Unlike Ali, who remained connected to our community on an unprecedented level, today’s athlete’s strive to put as much distance between themselves and the community as they can. While athletes today chase endorsement deals and worry about what they say and how what they stand up for might affect their bank account, Ali risked money, fame and his liberty for defiance born of his deeply held religious and political beliefs.  When told to report for duty during the Vietnam War, Ali simply said no because of his faith and his belief that it was unacceptably hypocritical to suggest to him that he should take up arms to protect a government responsible for discriminating against him and millions like him. In the face of great prejudice, Muhammad Ali, by his example, showed an other worldly unwavering amount pride. When Ali was stripped of his world heavyweight title and threatened with a monetary fine and actual incarceration, had there been a betting line established, it would have decidedly not been in Ali’s favor.

As a lawyer, I was curious about the underlying facts leading the U.S. Supreme Court to ultimately vote unanimously to overturn Ali’s lower court conviction on draft dodging charges.  The actual Supreme Court vote was 8-0 with Justice Thurgood Marshall recusing himself from the case because of his personal opposition to the Nation of Islam’s promotion of racial separation. Justice Marshall did not believe he could maintain impartiality relative to Ali. It turned out, a law clerk to one of the most conservative members of the Court, was the one credited with arguing Ali’s claim of his entitlement to a draft exemption to be analogous to the exact same arguments that had been previously accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court when used to grant Jehovah’s Witnesses exemption form the draft.

As I collected my thoughts through my reflection of the life of Muhammad Ali, my first hero, I was drawn to a quote from Jane Austen, of all people.  Austen in the classic nineteenth century English novel Pride and Prejudice, speaks through one of her characters when stating “(m)y courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” Truer words could never have been spoken with reference to the Champ.

It is for Ali’s legacy of pride in the face of prejudice that I will be eternally grateful.

Mark T. Harris is a licensed attorney in Sacramento, California.  Additionally, Harris is a tenured lecturer at the University of California, Merced where he is the Director of Pre-law Studies and is President of Central Valley Leaders, a non-profit organization devoted to developing young leaders. Professor harris served as California Undersecretary of Business, Transportation and Housing and as President Clinton’s Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Commerce under the late Secretary Ronald H. Brown.


BERNIE SANDERS FOR PRESIDENT: Why 60 is the “New 15”

By Professor Mark T. Harris

Dear Editors:

Well, the 2016 version of Judgment Day has arrived. I have been down this all too familiar path many, many times in my life. It started for me as a fifteen year old in 1972, when Black Democrats were faced with the choice between supporting former Vice-President Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, or the upstart “radical” Senator George McGovern, who hailed from, of all places, the state of South Dakota.  

My parents’ generation of Democrat believed that Vice President Humphrey had earned the uniform loyalty of African-Americans in light of a lifetime of work on behalf of Blacks, up to and including his work with former President Lyndon B. Johnson and the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to gain passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Humphrey famously backed the passage of a myriad of civil rights legislation both in Minnesota as the mayor of the city of Minneapolis and in our nation’s capital when he became a United States Senator representing the state of Minnesota.

By contrast, George McGovern was largely unknown to Black America when he exploded on the scene as an anti-establishment; pro-young people; pro-civil rights; anti-Vietnam war candidate for president of the United States. Senator McGovern did not have the political “chops” within the Black community, relative to his efforts on behalf of our issues such as education reform; increased employment opportunities and the desegregation of housing. Further, Senator McGovern, like Senator sanders,  did not hail form a particularly diverse population of African-Americans who could be counted on to “vouch” for his pro-civil rights credentials.  He was largely unknown to the national Black community prior to the presidential election of 1972. Humphrey had the clear advantage among voting age African-Americans.

However, things changed dramatically relative to the steam Senator McGovern was able to pick up among Black voters, particularly YOUNG Black voters who stood in defiance to their parents’ and grandparents’ idyllic nostalgic allegiance to Vice-President Humphrey, hmmmmm sounds familiar doesn’t it? McGovern attracted huge crowds of young disenchanted voters who were pro-civil rights and anti-war and he spoke to our vision of what he wanted our future America to shape up to become. I remember standing in the middle of Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, California, where I was born and raised and was working as a fifteen year old McGovern campaign volunteer, during one of his huge campaign rallies in June of 1972.  People were so moved by Senator McGovern’s vision for what America could and should be that some openly wept.  Recently, I attended Senator Sander’s campaign rally in Sacramento which was eerily reminiscent of the ’72 McGovern rally.  Senator Sanders’ crowd was diverse and were passionately and proudly “feeling the Bern.”

Which brings me forward to today.  I am an unashamed “Clintonista.”  I worked for former President Clinton in Washington, D.C. and voted for Senator Clinton over then Senator Barrack Obama in the California Democratic primary of 2008. However, come Tuesday, June 7, 2016, I plan to cast my vote for Bernie Sanders to be our next president.  I feel as I am experiencing, in the immortal words of the late New York Yankee Yogi Berra, “deja vu all over again.” My African-American political colleagues think I am becoming senile by not only supporting Senator Sanders, but publicly professing my support for his candidacy over that of “Saint Hillary.”  However, I respond to them that I have had the opportunity to explore the positions of EACH of the Democratic candidates for President of the United States and I am in lock-step with almost each and every position Senator Sanders has taken on the issues of the moment that are important to me!

My mama used to always remind me to “tell the truth and shame the Devil.” Well, Bernie Sanders is the truth.  I will be casting my vote for Senator Sanders to be the next president of the United States.  If questioned by my friends over how I could cast such a “disloyal” vote relative to “The Clintons,” I will just shrug my shoulders and remind them that my sixtieth birthday is quickly approaching.  I’ll say to them, “I guess sixty is the new fifteen.”

Sincerely yours,

Mark T. Harris, Esq.

Sacramento, California

Mark T. Harris is a tenured lecturer at the University of California, Merced and the Director of Pre-Law Studies.  Professor Harris is a licensed attorney who served in the Clinton Administration as there Deputy Chief of Staff at the United States Department of Commerce


DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. ---AMERICAN GANGSTER 

by Professor Mark T. Harris

I just finished re-watching the movie Selma and I can’t help but think of one descriptive term for Dr. King.  He was “gangster.” 

Now before all you old school types accuse me of demeaning the penultimate iconic figure of the African-American race, just pump your breaks a little.  After all, one of Dr. King’s most famous writings was penned in the infamous “Birmingham jail,” and in today’s lexicon Dr. King would be referred to as a “repeat offender.” Better be glad that for all their Jim Crow ignorance, the South didn’t have a “three strikes” enhanced criminal sentencing policy because it could have been applied to him. Dr. King was first arrested in Montgomery, Alabama in 1956; was next arrested in Albany, Georgia in 1962; in 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama and finally in Selma, Alabama in 1965. Additionally, he was charged with perjury in connection with a tax evasion investigation, but was never prosecuted for it. 

A “gangster” is loosely defined as one who commits crime, or “breaks the established law.” Specifically, the Collins English Dictionary published in Great Britain, defines a gangster as “amemberofanorganizedgangofcriminals.” Dr. King and his band of Southern Christian Leadership Conference leaders, were indeed a gang” of theologians.  They willfully and repeatedly violated the asinine laws and practices of the Jim Crow south. 

Whew! Alright let’s all take a deep breath and in the words of Martin Lawrence’s character from the film Bad Boys IIhold our earlobes and woosaaaaah” to calm down.  Many reading this will incorrectly assume I am chastising Dr. King or demeaning him in some manner.  The truth is the light.  Dr. King and many in the Civil Rights movement adopted a strategy of willfully challenging what they considered to be unjust laws and the southern states’ failure to enforce existing federal statutory and constitutional laws. As an attorney and professor of law, I find it inexcusable that the southern state governments and local governments were allowed by the federal government to overtly refuse to extend the protections of America’s laws to African-American citizens. 

It is a fundamental philosophical principle that “laws” must have a moral nexus in order to be sustained and obeyed.  Dr. King himself in his “Letter From A Birmingham Jail” said of unjust laws:  

“There are just laws and unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all….One who breaks an unjust law must do it openly (and) lovingly. I submit that an individual that breaks that (his or her) conscience tells them is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice,  is in reality expressing the very highest respect for the law.”  

Dr. King and other American civil rights leaders were willing to put both their liberty and their lives on the line for the principles they embraced.  They had the courage to reject the ridiculous arguments attempting to mask the unconscionable levels of discrimination and the denial of basic human rights that African-Americans experienced at the hands of those in authority in the southern United States at that time. 

Many Black barber shops and beauty shops throughout America, periodically put forward the concise rhetorical question: “Martin or Malcolm.” Until now, at every point in my life I responded “Malcolm” without exception when that question was put to me.  However, today I have a new answer to the question and that answer is loudly and defiantly the "American gangster" also known as the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

As African-Americans, we sometimes allow emotions to supplant strategy. We sometimes allow fiery oratory full of alliteration to replace a simple call for a clear set of tactics with an outcome in mind. There is nothing more courageous than to place yourself before those intending to cause you extreme physical harm and possible death without resorting to return violence with violence.  

Dr. King and many in the “Movement” had a theological rationale for their reluctance to allow for the return of countless violent encounters at the hands of southern whites. They also had a strategic objective in mind.  Dr. King and his followers believed that they could expose the hatred and wicked vileness of violent segregationist most effectively if they refused to fight back and instead, to borrow from a later used Muhammad Ali technique, merely “rope-a-doped” southern racists. In the movie Selma, a young pre- U.N. Ambassador; pre- U.S. Congressman; pre-Atlanta mayor Andrew Young is portrayed as arguing against the use of guns by some disgruntled freedom marchers because “for every two of theirs we kill they are going to kill 10 of ours.” Throughout global history, a winning strategy for generations of political underdogs has been to allow their oppressor to punch itself out. It is an unbelievably courageous strategy. 

Today, many have called for a strategic response and tactical outline for responding to the modern day lynchings of Trayvon in Sanfordor Oscar in Oakland; or Michael in Ferguson; or Eric in Staten Island or countless others whose deaths have not been recognized at the same levels by most of America. With all due respect to the extraordinary oratorical skills of Dr. King it was his actions rather than his words that I hope we will reflect on during this King Holiday throughout America. 

Let this year's Black History Month celebrations be a clarion call for each of us to mimic the courageous actions of Dr. King and other iconic African-Americans as we struggle to resolve the myriad civil rights issues facing America.


Blacks And Balance on the High Court: How Justice Scalia’s Death May Impact African Americans

  Justice Antonin Scalia

Justice Antonin Scalia

by California Black Media Staff

(Mark T. Harris, Esq. Interviewed) 

When U.S. Marshals confirmed Justice Antonin Scalia died Saturday while on a hunting trip in Texas, the country lost one of its most persuasive and articulate conservative voices.

From pointed positions on Affirmative Action and the death penalty to controversial takes on immigration and labor unions, the 79-year-old jurist stood up for moderate to hard-Right positions that usually put him at odds with a majority of African Americans — and many Democrats in general. To most conservatives, though, Scalia was a darling of their movement. The passion and ideas he inserted into the opinions he wrote for the United States Supreme Court influenced national conservative thought and policy way beyond the scope of those legal arguments.

“Most recently, Justice Scalia set off a national firestorm,” says Mark T. Harris, an African-American attorney and professor at the University of California, Merced.

“During oral arguments in Fisher vs. University of Texas, the University of Texas’ so-called Affirmative Action case,” Harris points out, “Justice Scalia questioned whether counsel were familiar with a premise from the book “Mismatch,” authored by a law professor and economist from UCLA and the other a former New York Times Supreme Court Reporter professor.”

In “Mismatch,” the authors questioned whether some African-American students attending highly competitive universities might fare better in “slower-track schools” rather than in more competitive academic environments.

“For the record, Scalia did not endorse the premise of “Mismatch,” says Harris, who served as Deputy Chief of Staff to late U.S. Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown during President Bill Clinton’s first term. “He merely raised it for consideration.”

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan appointed Justice Scalia to the United States Supreme Court after he served on the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Educated at Georgetown University and Harvard Law School, Justice Scalia had a reputation for a high level of intelligence, coupled with a biting wit and a willingness to engage in opinionated discussions on topics involving the U.S. Constitution.

Critics and supporters of Justice Scalia may never agree on whether his controversial comments on Affirmative Action were merely a reference to another scholar’s work or if the Italian-American Supreme Court Justice took the convenience of attributing his own assessment of Black students to another person’s argument. Either way, for Justice Scalia, Affirmative Action was only one of the hot-button issues on which he was outspoken. Scalia favored the death penalty; opposed abortion rights for women; supported removing the limits to political free expression through campaign contributions; favored broadening the authority states have relative to the deportation of “unwanted immigrants;” and opposed the expansion of hand gun limitations. He even disagreed with the decision in African-American Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s signature legislative accomplishment, Brown vs. Board of Education, which integrated America’s schools.

All in all, in the short run, Justice Scalia’s death will mean that the narrow one-person “soft” majority that conservatives have enjoyed on the U.S. Supreme Court will come to a temporary halt at least.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who some consider a conservative similar to Justice Scalia and the remaining conservatives on the Court (Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts), has swung back and forth between the conservative and liberal factions over the past several years. Most immediately, the Court will experience an apparent four-to-four liberal to conservative “tie” between Republican and Democratic presidential appointees. President Obama has already appointed two of the Supreme Court’s three women associate justices (Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Sonia Sotomayor) and just announced he will forward his nominee to replace Justice Scalia immediately to the U.S. Senate for confirmation. President Obama is pushing forward despite U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announcing that, in his opinion — and that of his Republican Senate colleagues — whomever the president names will not receive confirmation by the U.S. Congress.

For African Americans, Justice Scalia’s absence will have a direct impact on the outcomes of several cases currently before the Court. The aforementioned University of Texas “Affirmative Action” in higher education case will be decided between now and June of this year. That case will probably have four justices in favor of the University of Texas supporting the “critical mass theory” which supports keeping some form of preferential admissions for Black students and other minorities intact.

Regarding another controversial case, the United States vs. Texas, the Court must decide the fate of the Obama administration’s immigration policies which, if allowed to take effect, will temporarily enable close to five million undocumented immigrants to remain in the country. While the misperception that all undocumented immigrants are Latino persists, the reality is many of them are Blacks from the Caribbean and Africa.

In California, attempts to reform public education, which largely affects African-American schoolchildren, will also be impacted by Scalia’s passing. In the case, Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, it appears likely that an ambitious effort to defund mandatory membership in public sector unions will gain the necessary five favorable votes on the Supreme Court. Currently, this effort only has four conservative votes. Moreover, because the plaintiffs in this case lost in the court below, according to thinkprogress.org, “a decision affirming the lower court in an evenly divided vote is effectively a victory for organized workers.”

Republicans are concerned that an Obama appointee might throw the ideological balance of the Supreme Court out of whack. But Obama not appointing a moderate or liberal to the high court if a GOP candidate wins the presidency this year, and as Republicans enjoy a majority in both Houses of the U.S. Congress, could undo much of the progress African Americans have made over the years.

“Both our country and the African-American community will best be served if President Obama’s nominee to replace Justice Scalia is granted the immediate full and fair consideration by the United States Senate without delay,” says Harris.


On affirmative action in education, Justice Scalia is right

BY MARK T. HARRIS

The debate over race and crime still rages across America, evidenced by the series of police misconduct criminal trials taking place in Baltimore, the federal investigation of the Chicago police department and increasing criticism of that city’s mayor.

In the midst of this, many became outraged over comments from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia that affirmative action might well be counter-productive for black Americans seeking success in higher education.

Justice Scalia quoted several of the premises found in the book “Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended To Help and Why Universities Won’t Admit It,” by law professors Richard H. Sander and Stuart Taylor Jr.

Among several incendiary takeaways from Sander and Taylor’s book is the premise that African-American students might fare better in “slower-track schools” rather than more academically competitive colleges.

Simply stated, I agree.

Affirmative action was the conceptual equal opportunity “magic wand” intended to create access specifically for ethnic minorities, including African-Americans and women who had been denied access to “elite” colleges and professional education.

The theory behind higher-education affirmative action was that some African-Americans should be entitled to quota-based access to these elite universities and professional schools. These African-Americans were not considered equally qualified with their non-black classmates on the basis of empirical criteria such as grades or test scores, but their presence was deemed to serve a broad, though ill-defined, “value” added to the overall academic experience for all students – worthy of allowing them to jump to the head of the line past some arguably more academically qualified applicants.

What affirmative action never fully addressed was how those non-minority applicants who were “passed over” were supposed to embrace this patent unfairness, which some argued prevented them from acquiring the benefit of an elite education.

I don’t blame Justice Scalia one bit for recognizing the 10,000-pound elephant in the room. Just because one makes reference to something “racial” does render them a “racist” nor discount the truth in their words.

Either way, the sad takeaway from “Mismatch” still exists. What good is it to accept someone to an elite academic institution if they are unprepared to perform academically? The rolls of African-American students who populate the ranks of those on academic probation or who never graduate or who change their major from math, science or engineering to “African-American Studies,” or “sociology” or “undeclared” has reached a disproportionate level of critical mass that should be called out by our own community leaders.

Why is the African-American community silent on an issue that affects us more directly than any other?

I applaud the authors of “Mismatch” and Justice Scalia for raising the issue. By the way, when Justice Scalia raised this issue in oral argument, I wonder what facial expression his colleague, Justice Clarence Thomas, the U.S. Supreme Court’s sole Black justice, was wearing. It is well known that Justice Thomas entered Yale Law School via affirmative action.

I am a proud product of affirmative action. I was admitted both to my undergraduate and professional school as a result of government imposed “quotas.” Having said that, I was also the product of a low-income household growing up in South Central Los Angeles and, sadly, a deficient public education as segregated as any you would find in pre-Brown vs. Board of Education America.

It is not fair that inner-city public schools are deficient and that those who are the highest performing students are at a significant disadvantage when admitted to prestigious, highly competitive universities and professional schools. However, as my grandma used to say, “two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Quota-based affirmative action based solely on race is wrong. Period. Those based on economic discrimination have some value, but must be examined on a case-by-case basis. Let Justice Scalia’s reference to “Mismatch” light a fire of discourse on the unfairness of race-based affirmative action.

Mark T. Harris teaches management and business economics at the University of California, Merced, and served in the former Clinton administration. Email: mharris@ucmerced.edu


Mark T. Harris: America's racial divide demands honest debate

BY MARK T. HARRIS

Special to The Bee

During July 2013, my wife and I were teaching graduate students in Shanghai, China. Joining us was our youngest son, Martin, an accomplished scholar-athlete. During most evenings, Martin was adrift in the currents of Shanghai’s surprisingly “Westerner-friendly” nightlife. He would often stay out until daybreak, yet, I felt no worry.

But that would not be the case at all if my son stayed out all night in our hometown of Sacramento, or in any other major American city. In America, Martin, or any other young African American male, could well become a victim of violence either at the hands of a violent, corrupt police officer or another young African American male.

  Protesters hold up their hands while chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot” outside Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks inside to members of the community during an interfaith service in December. Unrest over police shootings begs an honest debate on both sides of America’s racial divide.   David Goldman     The Associated Press

Protesters hold up their hands while chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot” outside Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks inside to members of the community during an interfaith service in December. Unrest over police shootings begs an honest debate on both sides of America’s racial divide. David Goldman The Associated Press

At the time, George Zimmerman’s exoneration for the killing of Trayvon Martin, to me, illustrated the continuing dehumanization of African American males and the notion that they all are considered “armed and extremely dangerous” simply by virtue of their black skin.

To be a large African American male, as am I, creates the illusory impression of a double-barreled menace. Witness the brutal killing in New York of Eric Garner. The deaths of Garner and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., brought to mind a few nagging thoughts that appear to be missing in the current debate on race in America.

Sadly, I can’t escape the fact that my two 20-something sons are much more likely to be the victims of a violent crime at the hands of another African American male than they are at the hands of law enforcement. There, I said it. Every night they go out in Sacramento, or in Oakland or Los Angeles, I find myself unable to sleep until I hear the respective door lock turn, as I whisper a silent prayer of gratitude that some young black thug didn’t choose that night to harm my child out of spite or jealousy, or some other inexcusable behavior based on some incomprehensible perceived slight.

Comedian Dave Chappelle once riffed that, as black people, we sometimes “keep it real” way past logical. Here are a few observations in response to the question of where America’s current debate on race and crime might go from here.

First, it makes no difference what a law enforcement officer’s ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or faith is. What should matter is that brutal, racist cops should be summarily removed from service once they are discovered.

The systems that allow unfit officers to serve in law enforcement must be reformed. Why not have members of the communities where these law enforcement officers serve participate in the screening of those whom they will depend upon to “protect and serve”? Why not give a preference in hiring and promotion to officers living in specified neighborhoods?

Second, let’s be honest on both sides of America’s great racial divide. Georgetown Professor Michael Eric Dyson and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani were both right in points they espoused during an explosive exchange in a recent “Meet the Press” episode.

Giuliani called attention to the unacceptably high level of crime carried out by and against black people by other black people. Dyson challenged Giuliani’s observation, pointing out that the mayor’s comments seemed to draw a “false equivalency” between “black-on-black” crime and improper police tactics.

Police are sworn to uphold the law, which includes ensuring each person is treated equally under the law. Profiling and other means of applying stereotypes to certain types of persons on the basis of how they appear, as opposed to how they behave, is inimical to the very foundations of our democratic republic.

However, African Americans must be the leading edge for the calls to reduce the unacceptably high levels of crime to which we are subjected at the hands of other blacks. Nothing Giuliani said offended me because it was the truth, which I was told as a child, sometimes hurts. How he said it was inflammatory, not what he said.

My family and I returned to China in October to accompany the Sacramento Kings. Both of my young adult sons accompanied me. Although they traveled around China largely on their own, during all hours of the day and night, I slept each night without worry.

I find it reassuring to my American patriotism that the media have been full of videos and photographs showing a kaleidoscope of a uniquely American amalgam of diverse ethnic faces underneath outstretched arms holding up “Black Lives Matter” banners while chanting “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.” As an ongoing tidal wave of unrest envelops our nation, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty” resonates in my head as I attempt to reconcile how I, as a black man, continue to embrace the red, white and blue, while time and time again it fails to embrace me back.

It is because of the faith I have in America that I have a higher expectation of America.

Mark T. Harris teaches management at the University of California, Merced, and is an attorney in Sacramento, where he is president of New Faze Development. He is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law. As a Berkeley student, he served on the City of Berkeley Police Review Commission.